Back­page.com op­er­a­tors seek to drop pimp­ing charges

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

The op­er­a­tors of an in­ter­na­tional web­site that ad­ver­tises es­cort ser­vices asked a Cal­i­for­nia judge Wed­nes­day to throw out charges against them of pimp­ing and traf­fick­ing pros­ti­tutes.

At­tor­neys for Back­page.com CEO Carl Fer­rer and for­mer own­ers Michael Lacey and James Larkin say the web­site is pro­tected by the First Amend­ment and fed­eral law. The men were charged in Sacramento County Su­pe­rior Court by Cal­i­for­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Ka­mala Har­ris.

“The AG’s com­plaint should be dis­missed im­me­di­ately,” wrote James C. Grant, a Seat­tle-based at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the three men. “The charges the state as­serts amount to a brazen ef­fort to in­tim­i­date or shut down an on­line pub­lisher by us­ing all the crim­i­nal sanc­tions at the AG’s dis­posal, de­spite that she has no au­thor­ity what­so­ever to do so.” Back­page ad­ver­tises a wide range of ser­vices, but Har­ris charged that more than 90 per­cent of its rev­enue - amount­ing to mil­lions of dol­lars each month comes from adult es­cort ads that use coded lan­guage and nearly nude pho­tos to of­fer sex for money.

Fer­rer, 55, is charged with pimp­ing a mi­nor, pimp­ing and con­spir­acy to com­mit pimp­ing. Lacey, 68, and Larkin, 67, both from Ari­zona, are charged with con­spir­acy to com­mit pimp­ing.

Lawyers for the men say the fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions De­cency Act grants im­mu­nity to web­site op­er­a­tors for con­tent posted by users in or­der to pro­mote free speech. They also say the state pre­sented no ev­i­dence that the de­fen­dants knew any­thing about the nine ads cited in charg­ing doc­u­ments.—AP

SACRAMENTO: This un­dated photo pro­vided by the Sacramento County Sher­iff’s of­fice shows Carl Fer­rer.—AP

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